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Last of the Big 9!

13th September 2016

With only a few weeks left of Big Park Big Questions, the Cairngorms National Park is looking for your views on Housing, Economic Development and Community Capacity & Empowerment in the UK’s largest National Park.

There are some very big questions around these three issues – the last of ‘The Big 9’ – identified to focus the consultation on the next National Park Partnership Plan (NPPP) for 2017-22.

How do we provide much needed affordable housing and reduce the proportion of second homes? How can we provide the best opportunity for local people to work together on shared priorities by giving consistent and clear support? And what infrastructure investment is needed to boost education, tourism, forestry and renewable energy opportunities in the Cairngorms National Park?

The Cairngorms NPPP is a management plan for the whole Park, setting out a vision and overarching strategy for managing the area. It sets out how all those with a responsibility for the Park will co-ordinate their work to tackle the most important issues.

When it comes to housing in the Cairngorms National Park, there is the issue of a growing population, there are a large number of second or holiday homes – and owing to the special natural environment – there are a limited number of potential sites for new housing. There is also a lack of housing that is affordable for people who live and work here.

The National Park economy is heavily reliant on the tourism industry so the next NPPP needs to deliver some diversification but at the same time strengthen the tourism product in the area. Issues around digital connectivity also need to be tackled to be able to support a growing economy; as well as improvements on further and higher education opportunities to support key sectors such as forestry, renewables and food and drink.

Communities are of course at the heart of the National Park and with the Community Empowerment and Land Reform Acts now in place, communities are presented with the opportunity to manage their own income generating assets. However this example of community empowerment requires the right support structures to be in place and ensuring that communities have enough properly trained volunteers to maximise those opportunities.

James Gibbs, Area Manager with Highlands & Islands Enterprise said: “There is huge potential throughout the Cairngorms National Park for sustainable community and economic development across several sectors. The patch is hugely diverse and with many thriving industries and active dynamic communities. The massive improvements being made in digital connectivity and technology can only add to this potential. We would encourage people across the Park area to take part in the consultation and embrace the opportunity to help take the Park forward in a cohesive and inclusive way and strengthen its appeal as a place to live, work, study and invest.”

Mark Tate, Chief Executive of the Cairngorms Business Partnership commented: “With just a few weeks left for responses to the National Park Partnership Plan consultation it is really important that businesses engage. Whilst the current focus is on Rural Development and it would be easy for businesses to focus on housing and the economy, every aspect of the consultation will have an impact on how people live, work, learn and invest in the National Park over the next six years. We are holding a series of member events to form a business response and would welcome any views to [email protected] and would also encourage businesses to respond direct on issues that are important to them.”

Karen Derrick of Voluntary Action Badenoch & Strathspey said: “Now is a very exciting time for the development of the Park communities, as the Scottish Government and other public bodies recognise that in these challenging financial times, communities are key to supporting the future delivery of local services and ensuring their local assets are taken care of and well used. Communities and their organisations in turn, need consistent and high quality advice as well as ongoing support in order to fulfil this role in a sustainable and effective way. In order to be confident and skilled in taking on assets and services, they will look to develop successful partnerships and networks across all sectors, so volunteer boards know they are viewed as an integral part in moving their community forwards.

The CNPA is outlining the big issues on which they want peoples’ views. Input from partners, communities, businesses and the general public is important to ensure that the Cairngorms National Park continues to thrive for people and nature. The questions raised in the consultation reflect the issues facing communities within the Park but also the big questions about how the Cairngorms National Park benefits people across Scotland.

Big Park Big Questions closes on 30th September. Following this, the proposed NPPP will go before the CNPA board before being submitted to Ministers for approval in the spring of 2017. You can get more information on the Cairngorms National Park Authority website or on Twitter via @cairngormsnews using #BigParkBigQuestions.